Catholics are back at the Capitol making their voices heard in person now that the doors of “the people’s house” have reopened to the public. A 15-month closure amid the pandemic shifted most legislative business and public advocacy online.
When the doors reopened on June 10, Minnesota Catholic Conference staff, joined parents and others asking Governor Tim Walz to sign school choice legislation. The rally was led by Exodus Minnesota, an organization started by five black mothers who believe expanding school choice is essential to ensuring all students can access quality education. They are advocating for the creation of education savings accounts that would allocate educational funds to the child instead of to school systems, thereby enabling parents to decide how their education dollars are spent.
After Gov. Walz had refused to meet with them following an invitation they hand-delivered to his residence, the Exodus moms marched from their press conference and joined Gov. Walz at his press conference. Although he refused again to listen to their concerns, the presence of school choice supporters has become the enduring image of this month’s special session, and a reminder to lawmakers that the school choice movement is not going away.
Not only are citizen advocates and lobbyists back inside the Capitol, but lawmakers have also returned to the chambers for a special session. The special session, called by Governor Tim Walz to extend his COVID-19 peacetime emergency powers by 30 days, is expected to continue until the legislature passes the state’s $52 billion biennial budget.
It is expected that public officials will come to an agreement by the July 1 deadline, but that, other than COVID relief, very few items on each party’s wish list will get accomplished because our Legislature is divided into partisan lines. Senate Republicans are focused on lowering or keeping taxes flat, and Gov. Walz, Lt. Gov. Flanagan, and House Democrats are focused on boosting public school spending.
In the meantime, Minnesota Catholic Conference staff continue to advocate for several issues to be included in the final budget. Among those are nonconforming drivers’ licenses and identification cards for immigrants, education savings accounts for students, nonpublic school aid, payday-lending reform, earned sick and safe time, driver’s license suspension reform, emergency services and shelter program funding, a strong safety net for our state’s poorest families, and an expansion of medical assistance program to include at least six months of coverage for postpartum women.
Action Alert: Tell Senators Klobuchar and Smith to Oppose the Equality Act
As Catholics, we believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. The Equality Act, which the Senate is expected to take up soon, in many ways does the opposite and needs to be opposed. Instead of respecting differences in beliefs about marriage and sexuality, the Equality Act would discriminate against people of faith.
Learn more and send your message to Senators Klobuchar and Smith at www.MNCatholic.org/ActionCenter.